Breanna Ngyuen, 27, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, had just finished her second year of medical school coursework when the coronavirus pandemic took hold last spring.
Nguyen, of Orlando, FL, had been preparing to enter what many consider one of the most challenging and important years of the medical school journey, when students have several exams and complete clinical work in order to graduate. Instead, Nguyen decided to take a year off and conduct outside research because all in-person instruction and testing centers closed.
“I know this caused a lot of stress for me and many of my classmates, and this was definitely one of the biggest challenges as a medical school student during the pandemic,” Nguyen said.
Ngyuen says one of the things she misses most about in-person instruction was getting to interact with patients and classmates. Because Ngyuen is taking a year off, she’s no longer in the same graduating class as when she began her medical school career.
“With COVID and rotations together, it can get really isolating," Ngyuen said.
Ngyuen has been able to conduct in-person research at the Biomedical Science Tower in Oakland since the facility’s reopening in June, but the work requires physical distancing, temperature checks upon entering the building, and lots of sanitization.
Despite the hardships so many medical students have faced through the pandemic, Ngyuen said she's optimistic.
“Overall I’m extremely impressed with how adaptable everyone has been and how well people have been adhering to guidelines and so that we can keep each other safe," she said. "And progress our research at the same time. My research year has been really rewarding thus far, and I’m looking forward to continuing out the year in the lab and returning to rotations in the late spring and summer."